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Refugees fleeing in fear of their lives

Postcards and photography

The places of origin of most of London Jewry at the beginning of the last century, and into the First World War years, were in Eastern Europe, chiefly the Romanov Empire. As the Czarist monarchy began to disintegrate, millions of Jews, and others, began their journeys to Great Britain, the United States and many other places.

Where Britain was the final destination, most of the immigrants settled in London’s East End. The 1899 map of London’s Jewish East End provides information on where they mainly lived and an idea of the population density in the East End. 

This Discovery section shows rare photographic images, many turned into postcards, of refugees in parts of Eastern Europe. Many of the images were taken by Jewish German or Austro-Hapsburg military photographers and officers and soldiers of the German army. At the time, many of the refugees were more frightened of the competing Russian armies than of the German armies.

For more images in this series, please click here to go to the Resource Bank.


This Discovery section focuses on illustrating Jewish life through postcards. Most of the cards displayed on We Were There Too are particularly rare since the Jewish communities frequently illustrated were decimated during the First and Second World Wars.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was of course no television, radio, telephone or internet or many of the other things we take for granted today. Most communication was by letter. In the 1890’s postcards were introduced and often the message and the image were on one side with the reverse side entirely for an address. In 1907, postcard companies began introducing cards with an image filling one side and the message and address on the reverse side. This meant that the photographic images could be larger. 

With the expanding railway systems there was rapid delivery between cities and towns and within them. Postcard companies began producing cards in very great quantities, with a whole range of images that could be sent through the postal system very quickly and cheaply.

When a traveller visited a place in Eastern Europe they would have their photograph taken, perhaps with family members from that country. The printer who developed the image, would provide postcard size versions of it. Postcard publishing became a significant industry and collecting grew to become a major hobby. 

During the First World War, all armies had photographers accompanying them and there are a large number of cards depicting nearly all the activities of the period. 

It should be remembered that during war years, the messages were frequently censored. Frequently the postmark is of an field station, or a field hospital at some indeterminate point.


About this Collection

London-based private collector, Adrian Andrusier, has for over 40 years been collecting postcards and postal history of Jewish life especially in the 1890-1940 period. 

Adrian is keen that educational organisations and other not-for-profit bodies freely use the images. Other, unauthorized use and for commercial purposes are not permitted and permission should be obtained in advance from Carla Drahorad at carla.drahorad@btopenworld.com

View the Entire Collection

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London Jews in the First World War - We Were There Too

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